As AT&T has expanded its Foundry approach to innovation, each of its five locations are addressing a separate specialty. Its second Foundry in Plano, Texas, is devoted to the Internet of Things, or basically getting everything connected in today's New IP world.
This Foundry is very practically focused, according to my tour guide, David Marten, principal product development engineer at AT&T Foundry, and is exploring everything from RF engineering and antennas, to hardware and mechanical engineering, to front-end systems such as graphic user interfaces, databases and virtualization. Bringing together these skills in one location is enabling AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) to kick-start some Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
There are core technologies such as a quadband cellular antenna, which can be used to address any wireless frequency, Marten notes, but there are also practical issues such as the housing of sensors, which varies significantly depending on the IoT application, and the ability to deploy sensors in out-of-the-way places with batteries that have significant lifespans.
The Foundry uses a Faraday cage, which is a device that isolates RF using copper shielding, to create "an island of RF quiet," Marten notes, for testing devices.
The ultimate challenge is to blend the required elements -- RF sensors, front and back-end systems, housing, batteries, etc. -- in a way that supports a practical business case in the long run.
To see some of what's in play in Plano, click on the image below for a short slideshow. (See also Inside the AT&T Foundry.)
3D Printing to the Rescue
A variety of potential device enclosures for sensors of all sizes can be produced using a 3D printer, speeding up the process of testing new IoT applications considerably.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading